Home Fires Burning – exclusive excerpt 1

Homes Fires Burning was re-released in the autumn, from Lethe Press.

It’s a combination of two novellas, one light hearted and one much darker (that latter being one of the best stories I’ve ever written, IMO, but more of that tomorrow.) This is from “The Case of the Overprotective ass”, in which two actors who are playing Holmes and Watson find themselves asked to play a similar role in real life.

They’d left Johnny’s office and were down some stairs and along a corridor before Alasdair could trust himself to speak. “Why us?” He might have accepted the commission but that didn’t mean he was happy about it.
“The police weren’t interested, and…”
Alasdair cut across his friend; there was no time to waste. “I understand that, but why us? Why not a private investigator or someone else with the relevant experience?” He had a horrible thought. “He’s not still after you, is he?”
Toby snorted. “I should bloody well hope not. Surely he’s got the message by now? No, I don’t think this is all some cunning strategy to somehow get me alone and wheedle his way into my boudoir. Even if it was, give me some credit for being able to resist him.”
“I’m sorry.” Alasdair bit his lip.
“I’ll accept your apology if you look more contrite. Better. Now, are you sure, absolutely sure, that you want to take this case up?” Toby looked genuinely troubled.
“Of course I do, if only to see the smile wiped off his face when we succeed.” Another horrible thought. “Are you saying that you’d rather not be involved? You seemed so keen in there that I assumed…”
“You assumed quite right. I’d like to find anything to keep my mind off this bloody awful fiasco of a pirate film.” Toby grinned. “I quite fancy a diversion.”
“Then that’s a perfect motivation for both of us. You to stave off ennui and me to put one over on our smug friend.”
“Then, as your Commodore Neville has such a habit of saying, ‘There’s not a moment to lose.’” Toby bounded down a little run of five stairs and strode off along another corridor, Alasdair scurrying to catch up. They walked down to the foyer, the time for decision-making getting ever closer. Toby stood by the desk where they sold programmes and gave a huge, appropriately theatrical sigh. “Any idea where we should start, then?”
“Mr Bowe?” A sandy haired young man, very earnest behind metal rimmed spectacles but not bad-looking—apart from the knobbly Adam’s apple—came hurtling through a door and leaped across the foyer. “Mr Fisher said he’s terribly sorry, but he forgot to give you this.” He held out a small black-covered book.
Toby took it, perusing the pages and nodding his head. An address book. “Thank you, Mr…?”
“Hampson.”
“Hampson. I’ll try to remember the name. I suppose this book belonged to Robin Pierce?”
Hampson nodded. “That’s why Mr. Fisher wanted you to have it. That he should come to you for help, though…” He shook his head and turned on his heels, mission accomplished.
“What on earth did he mean by that?” Alasdair frowned.
“Probably thinks the same as us—that we’re actors, not detectives, and that this is probably all going to turn out for the worst.” Toby pocketed the address book safely against the rain which was still pitching down outside. “We should show him. Show the both of them. Where would Sherlock begin?”
“Bugger Sherlock. I’d begin with finding a decent pub, having a pint of beer and giving that book—which I note was sent down to you but I’ll try to ignore the fact—a dose of reasoning. There’s not a lot of time and we don’t want to be chasing wild geese.”

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